While working remotely from home has its advantages, it can also leave you desiring some good old face time with your teammates – beyond Skype, that is. Both Kersa and I agreed on that point when we flew up to Denver for our summer All-Hands meeting. The trip was made that much more special since neither of us had been to the Denver office before, which just marked its two-year anniversary!
The opening of BPR’s second location in Colorado, back in 2013, is just the beginning of the company’s expansion. Texas has welcomed two BPR’ers since this time, me included, even though our choice in location happens to be a coincidence. I began working remotely back in November 2014 and now work out of Corpus Christi, Texas, due to my husband’s career. Kersa joined the remote squad in May of this year, and is now residing in Austin, Texas.
Due to our remote locations, visiting Denver was a welcome adventure for both of us! While in Denver we found time to not only to catch up with colleagues, but also to take in a few of the city’s attractions.
Before I left Denver I learned a few things, including:
Denver is home to a big blue bear, which livens up the Colorado Convention Center.
Kersa here! Like Heather mentioned, we have come to appreciate many thing about working remotely – such as fewer distractions and zero commute time – but we also miss seeing our BPR family each day. Spending time with our Denver cohorts during this short trip definitely solidified that sentiment.
Lucky for us, BPR provides its employees with the option of visiting other office locations for a few days without using up any vacation days. Looks like Denver will be seeing a lot more of Heather and I from here on out!
Some of my favorite Denver takeaways include:
The air is fresher because you are “closer to the sky”
Crosswalk signals aren’t followed – walk at your own risk!
“Everyone’s nicer in Denver” should probably be the city’s motto
We worked, we laughed, we tried our first pickle shot, and we even biked during our whirlwind trip to Denver – until next time!
We could kick this blog off touting all the ways this agency is an exemplary example of an agency with “good work culture.” But, that bullshit jargon speak would be so the other guys. Forget those cliché best places to work lists, we’ve been busting the badass place to work mold everyday for years. Here’s the inside scoop on what really goes on behind close doors at the big BPR:
You know you work at Barokas PR when….
1. It’s a little awkward and you’re still not entirely sure how it happened, but you inherited a whole new family on your first day on the job.
2. Your new motto has become- “You don’t need news, to make news.”
3. Summer means sunshine and whiskey (literally). This one’s for you Howie 😉 😉
4. You’re making your morning cup of joe and have more milk choices than you get at Starbucks.
5. You’re always fully mentally prepared for the deep life altering thoughts that could come from anyone at anytime.
6. You aren’t quite sure if the true office mascot is a plastic bulldog named Jack or a stuffed panda named Pablo. It’s definitely a toss up.
7. It’s Friday, which means you can bet at least a few people on your teams aren’t wearing any pants to work.
8. Whether you’re in Denver or Seattle, you can always find the office cause it’s strategically located a block from the Irish bar Fado one way, and the baseball stadium the other. (No way this wasn’t a happy accident)
9. By noon you think you can fly because the mini Red Bull fridge is fully stocked today and you’re on number four.
10. Either a meme, GIF, or eCard is the most appropriate response to most things. Duh–even Google agrees!
Do you speak-a our language (for you 80s Men at Work fans)? Are you badass too? If so, we’re always looking for new members of the fam. Just drop Jack a note on why we should adopt you—email@example.com.
Summer means many things at BPR. Happy hour brainstorms on a patio. Business casual flip-flops. Writing press release while “unplugging” on vacation.
But nothing gets us more amped than summer movie season. Except this summer, we’ve been incredibly let down by the theatre offerings. Avengers 2 was meh. Tomorrowland was preachy. Entourage was brutal. There hasn’t been a single summer movie that made us stand up and cheer.
Okay fine, Pitch Perfect 2 was pretty great, but other than that….
The problem with summer movies is that the hype ultimately never really moves the needle. It’s usually the under-the-radar films that really strike a nerve (we’re looking at you Me, Earl and the Dying Girl).
The same rule applies to PR. Sure, it sounds super sexy to tell your board that your agency is going to pitch you to Forbes, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. However, a lot of effort can go into trying to secure a small mention in these blockbuster publications, but it might not ultimately be what is best for your business. Sure, a lot of eyeballs for your message or product is great, but just because something gets seen by a lot of people doesn’t mean it nets a great end result.
It’s important to really understand what will resonate with your client’s audience. Smaller, more niche publications can drive just as much, if not more, awareness for your brand. So while a Washington Post mention looks good in an investor recap, a full-blown feature in a trade publication aimed specifically at your target audience will likely yield much great traction. The masthead might not be as sexy, but the ROI sure will be.
So, this summer, instead of following the herd and going to see the most publicized movies – damn you, Terminator Genisys – check out a smaller film here and there. And when you’re trying to generate awareness for your company, don’t forget the importance of the little guys. They’re the ones that might ultimately be the biggest hit of the season.
One of my favorite quotes from an early season of Mad Men was Don Draper telling a young staffer, ‘Options are weak.’ I think about it every time I’m preparing to give a recommendation to a client. Do I offer them multiple choices to consider, or do I go with my gut and give one solid recommendation? Options are weak. Go with your gut.
Analysis Paralysis stems from behavioral economics. The theory, over simplified, is that when offered too many choices, you become overwhelmed and end up choosing none. So what can you do to mitigate analysis paralysis?
Do Your Research
Whatever the scenario, chances are, this isn’t the first time a company has been through this situation, or a seasoned team member hasn’t dealt with something similar. Utilize your resources to gather all the information and select the best strategy that fits your client.
If a question comes up in a meeting, it’s OK to tell them you’ll get back to them with a recommendation. It’s better to give yourself time than give bad advice.
Be Confident in Your Convictions
Now that you’ve decided on a recommendation, you have to deliver it to the client. “One thing you could try…” “Maybe you could….” Are two of my least favorite ways to start a sentence. It shows a lack of confidence and your client is not likely to take your idea or recommendation seriously.
Instead, be bold and willing to stand up for your ideas: “We would recommend…” “You should…”
Back It Up
You did all that research for a reason. If the client pushes back or second-guesses your recommendation, get ready to back it up.
The client hired us to be the PR experts. If you give too many options and ask the client to decide, you will never move anything forward. Have the confidence in your abilities and speak with conviction. Options are weak, but you don’t have to be.
And so the process goes: Your awesome client tells you they have news, you devise a strategy, draft the release, conduct outreach, host briefings (hopefully multiple), and then pray to the journalistic Gods that the reporter publishes an article and leverages that materials you provided to portray your client in a positive light.
From initial interest from a reporter all the way to the release crossing the wire, it’s our responsibility as PR pros to influence the media every step of the way. We spoon feed them original angles, supply industry data, follow up with corporate collateral and serve customer references – the list goes on. If we’re successful, a feature article can have a significant impact on a client’s business. In some cases, you can even directly quantify the value of PR to a specific business metric or result.
For our client, Vertafore, the company came to us with a product update for one of its leading insurance software solutions. A minor (but still important) update that, lucky for us, aligned with some timely industry news.
You see, Google has recently entered into the insurance technology space and has been causing quite a stir in insurance trade publications as well as mainstream technology outlets. While Vertafore’s latest product update doesn’t necessarily directly compete with Google’s insurance solution, Vertafore has been in the market for over 45 years and brings unmatched industry expertise, technology sophistication and a massive customer base. This gave them a unique opportunity to discuss why technology players such as Google, who try to ‘do it all,’ will never be able to offer consumers the same depth of knowledge, expertise, and resources that industry cornerstones like Vertafore provide.
Leveraging this timely angle, we were able to secure an interview with one of the higher circulation insurance publications. The conversation centered on market implications of Google’s entry and how Vertafore stands to compete.
The call was a challenging one. As the PR team, we helped create common ground by offering up suggestions for a couple of counterpoints that the spokesperson ran with during the interview. This even extended the interview by 10-15 minutes. A great sign, but it was still unclear what key messages the reporter was going to focus on in the article. Later that day we worked on a series of follow up responses to provide the reporter with extra information – making it almost certain this one would result in the type of coverage we wanted to garner.
The story touched on the majority of the key messages we wanted included, and those extra points the spokesperson included at the end of the call were highlighted heavily in the second half of the piece. But, the headline was the real attention grabber. The blatant title drove clicks, likes and shares.
Net/net: While it’s sometimes hard to know what’s going to resonate with press, it’s our job to feed media stories that move the needle for our clients, and to help guide our clients correctly through the process. We need to strike the perfect balance between client wants and needs with trends we know will pique reporter interest. By encouraging clients to push the envelop and get a bit outside of their comfort zone to discuss the hot button topic, the result is a mutually beneficial article – the reporter drives clicks, the client drives leads.
For eight years, there was nothing better than spending an hour each week in front of the TV with Don, Peggy and Joan. Yes, Mad Men. The series quickly became one of my favorites after just a few episodes. Whether it was the vintage clothes, 1960’s and 1970’s inspired sets or the great one-liners from Don (that’s why I pay you!), the show effortlessly captivated its mass audience at every turn.
With the show’s final episode airing last month, I was left wondering what new series could possibly fill the vast void left by the end of Mad Men. Enter HAPPYish. Like Mad Men, the series is set in an ad agency, but in the modern day. Thom Payne, the lead character, is a mid-40s creative director whose world is turned upside down when his new 25 year-old boss blows in to town to drive a new “social” direction for the agency. This leads Thom to question his “joy ceiling” and whether pursuing happiness is a fool’s errand.
One of my favorite parts of this dark comedy is how the creators bring brands to life within the context of the show. In six episodes, we’ve been treated to segments on Coke, the Wonderbra, Amazon, GEICO, Keebler, and New York Life, among others. The show’s main characters interact with several famous brand spokescharacters including the GEICO Gecko and the Keebler Elves. The show strips away the polished image of these characters and presents you with a rough and raw version that helps move the storyline forward in a NOT so perfect, real world.
For example, Thom is worried about saving the animated Keebler Elves from their untimely demise due to a change in creative strategy that dictates the use of real world actors. The segment quickly takes an outrageous turn with Ernie Keebler (head elf) perched in the Hollow Tree and wheeling a gun, and Thom taking a romp in the hay with Ma Keebler. Outrageously funny and shocking? Yes. Damaging to the brand? Maybe, maybe not.
In a time when companies are more fiercely protective of their brands than ever before, it’s risky to allow a third party to manipulate the image of a brand or icon. This is one of the key themes the show tackles throughout each episode – when is it time for a brand to flex its creative muscle and consider a change?
In my opinion, it was a risk worth taking and perfectly targeted at the show’s target audience – 30, 40 and 50-somethings who have grown up with these brands and appreciate the humor that comes with age. The brands featured on HAPPYish have taken a risk, pushed the envelope and evolved with their audience to breathe new life into trusted, household names.
I first met Howie when he presented to my communications class during the last quarter of senior year at the University of Washington (go Huskies!). In addition to capturing my immediate attention touting a “No BS” approach to PR, I remember one of the first pieces of PR wisdom Howie shared us, “No one will ever fully understand what you do for a living – not even your family.” Although not entirely aware what he meant at the time, I was certainly intrigued.
Fast-forward five years and Howie’s wisdom still holds true, not only here at BPR, but as an industry as a whole. PR is an industry that is largely misunderstood, often mistaken for marketing or advertising (although most PR pros would appreciate a martini lunch reminiscent of advertising’s Mad Men era). Misinterpreted or not, from my perspective PR is simply the best kept secret.
As Mother’s Day quickly crept on us this year, I asked my BPR family to do a little field testing to see how well our own moms know what we do for 40+ hours a week. I was certain that they too would succumb to the masses and wouldn’t have a clue what their precious kiddos do day in and day out, but I was completely wrong.
In addition to being our super heroes, the best cooks, and our shoulder to cry on when we scraped a knee, one thing will forever hold true – our moms are the shit. Admittedly, judging by mom’s facial expressions each time I try to explain my client’s technology (even in layman’s terms), I highly doubted she knew what I did for a living. And for that, I’m forever sorry and will never doubt her again. In fact, her answer was pretty damn perfect:
“You create a positive image for companies via media.”
A few brilliant answers from other BPR Moms include:
“You monitor your clients public image and help them market themselves and promote their product or service through mass media.” – Taylor N’s Mom
“Honey, I think the job of a PR person is to inject, increase, and or improve the image of a client company in a market it wishes to target. I think you’re doing this by increasing exposure and visual media, television, the written media, magazines and newspaper articles and through social media. And I don’t really understand how you do all social media, but there are lots of ways I guess. The job of a PR person I think is to make a product understandable, approachable, and desirable.” – Melissa’s Mom
“Not sure I really know what you do-write press releases, council CEO’s on communication strategies-what else?” – Karli’s Mom
“Help companies find the best way to get their products, message to the masses.” – Constance’s Mom
“I think you kind of sell the company that you’re promoting. If you’re working for a business you advocate for them.” – Taylor B’s Mom
So PR pros, what have we learned today? Our moms are badass. They are always right, they listen (even as we attempt to explain the complexities of enterprise security, mobile device management and programmatic advertising), and they have a pretty solid idea of what we do in PR.
To be fair, this post wouldn’t be complete without a few honorable mentions as well.
“I have no idea what you do, but you’re on your phone too much.” – Lindsey’s Mom
“Are you Samantha Jones from Sex and the City?” – Lauren’s Mom
“I mean, I think your title says it all ‘public relations.’” – Allyse’s Mom
In honor of Mother’s Day I want to recognize my awesome mom, Barbara, and share with you a small sample of the great content she creates on a weekly basis. Here is a voicemail she left me this week after arriving in New Orleans with my dad, Morgan. They’d planned a trip to NOLA a few years ago, then Katrina hit. They finally took the trip as an early celebration for their 60th wedding anniversary in October.
In case you’re wondering, they got a King bed that was already made, and they bought yogurt and bread for the morning. Oh and my dad’s snoring machine made it through TSA. If you need to reach them they are in room 223, under Barokas.
Oh, hey, soon-to-be college graduate – I see you checking out the BPR website. If you’re hoping to get into the PR industry and looking for an internship, there are certain things you should and should not do to stand out during the interview process. Below are a few do’s and don’ts that make a PR internship candidate either shine in our eyes or, well, not.
Prove that you’ve multitasked — to the extreme
In the PR industry, not a single day is the same. We rearrange and edit our to-do lists multiple times a day. Higher priority items supersede high priority items; tasks that weren’t in our hemisphere at 9:00am dictate our day by 9:30am. There are 30 balls in the air at all times (and sometimes, when it gets super fun, we’ll find ourselves juggling 50 balls, wondering why physicists haven’t yet figured out how to stop time). Staying organized amongst differing degrees of craziness is essential, and we want to know that you can stay composed and on top of your workload without us having to micromanage you. Prove that you’ve mastered this in past experiences.
Don’t just say you’ve juggled your workload in college. These class requirements are outlined in the professor’s syllabus on day one, and fulfilling university credit stipulations while being involved in a sorority, band, Quidditch club, whatever, is not the same as juggling your workload in this industry – trust us.
Provide (well-written) writing samples
In PR, we write. A lot. Whether it’s a press release, pitch, blog post or some variation, being able to communicate well via the written word is tantamount. Show us your grammar acumen and creativity with some writing samples.
Don’t have any typos in your cover letter, resume or emails. A big part of our job is editing and checking for grammar, so this is a deal-breaker. Let me repeat: DEAL-BREAKER. We’ve seen resumes and cover letters in which Barokas is repeatedly misspelled; “your” is used in place of “you’re”; run-on sentences are utilized so frequently, cover letters read like lengthy streams of consciousness, etc., etc. Read and reread for mistakes – find them. Or we will.
Know what PR professionals actually do
Be clear and precise in your reasoning as to why you want to get into PR. Many people don’t know what PR professionals do. This includes some of our spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends, parents, pets, etc. We need to make sure you’re knowledgeable about the industry and as passionate about PR as we are.
Don’t just say you want to help clients, that you’re a “people person,” (what does this even mean? You breathe air and don’t hate it?), or you think PR sounds fast-paced and interesting. Be specific. Do research. Google. Share what really excites you about PR.
Be yourself (as clichéd as it sounds)
At BPR, we regard each other as a “work family.” We have a wide range of interests, hobbies, skills and passions, which only makes us better as a whole. Our individual uniqueness allows us to generate original, creative ideas for our clients. So, go ahead – show us your unique, irreplaceable self. We really want to meet the Real You.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your resume. It’s another way to show your personality and showcase your skillset.
If you’re interested in an internship with BPR and ready to ride the fun, crazy wave that is PR, send your cover letter and resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few years ago, I decided to jump off a bridge. I’m still not entirely sure why I did it, but I’ve wanted to jump again every day since.
Okay, okay – I was strapped to a bungee cord. Minor detail. The moral of the story is that, for about 75% of the experience, I thought I was going to die. And I loved it.
It might be an extreme example, but this is how I feel about my job in PR. It’s an adrenaline rush. Every day I question why I do it, and how I’ve survived. But every morning I wake up, drink a few cups of coffee, and fall deeper in love with PR. What keeps me coming back for more? Glad you asked. Here are three things I hate that I love about PR most:
1. No One Knows What the F*ck We Do
I assume that if you’ve landed on the Barokas blog, you’re somewhat familiar with PR. But 99% of the population is not. My favorite example of this lack of awareness comes from the most legitimate of sources: urban dictionary.
Yes, we promote parties. Exactly. Most of my friends think I’m Peggy Olson from Mad Men.
This can be incredibly annoying. The part that I love? There’s always a market demand. Most CEOs, CMOs or their business counterparts need a PR pro or team to help promote their business. Another part that I love: how happy our clients are when they see results. When PR is done right, you’ll see results but hardly even know we’re there. This is counterintuitive and fuels lack of awareness, but it makes us kind of like superheroes. Your sales team will have coverage to fuel their sales pipeline, your HR organization will see resumes pour in, your online channels will spike in traffic – there are countless goals to be accomplished.
2. Shit Hits the Fan Every. Single. Day.
When I wake up in the morning, before I habitually roll over and check my email, there are about 15 priorities I think (emphasis on ‘think’) I have for the day. By the end (and I don’t mean 5pm), those priorities have dramatically shifted. I like to think of this as an “objects in the mirror are never as close (or far away) as they appear’ conundrum. There are two main drivers to the chaos that I’ve grown to love: the nature of PR and the pace of the tech industry.
Whether it’s an embargo being broken, a surprise funding announcement, or a crisis communication effort, PR is an on-the-edge-of-your seat kind of ride – that doesn’t really stop. At Barokas we work with emerging tech companies from early, stealthy startups to high growth, going-to-be-acquired-any-day-now tech darlings – and we take pride in playing a huge part for making them successful. This is not a 9-5 job. The dynamic of this culture is what fuels me. While I’m inherently a ‘planner,’ I’m addicted to the rush of a constantly changing tech and PR world that cannot be 100% planned for.
3. Journalists Hate Us
I absolutely love proving people wrong. Almost every day I read an article about the reason reporters hate PR; they fascinate me. I’m embarrassed for SO many fellow PR colleagues and their incredibly lazy PR tactics; it sickens me to be lumped into this category and I take pride in setting an example of my own behavior. But I’m also humored by the hypocrisy from a minority of journalists themselves: typos, false-information, lack of objectivity, inconsistent policies on embargos. They’re guilty too. Any subset of a given professional should not reflect an entire population – and every day I’m motivated to changing the PR status quo.
PR is rewarding, inspiring and can make a serious impact on a business or society. But PR is not for most people. You have to be thick-skinned, aggressive with a balance of easy-going, and always up for a few challenges. Good luck out there J